The Iowa senior talks conditioning, Villanova. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Jarrod Uthoff played a career-high 43 minutes in Iowa’s overtime win against Temple. Peter Jok played a career-high 39.
It was something neither was necessarily built for two seasons ago when Iowa and Villanova last met in the Bahamas in late 2013, a game also decided in overtime and won by the Wildcats. The two programs will square off at 11:10 a.m. CT Sunday at the Barclays Center with a berth in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 on the line.
“Great credit to Iowa's strength staff,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said, “because you look at the bodies of those guys from that game and their bodies now — Uthoff, especially. He was a skinny, wiry kid.”
Something about Uthoff that hasn’t been discussed much during his all-American, first-team all-Big Ten Conference season was the weight and muscle he added in the offseason. With the help of his fiancée, Jessie Jordan, he wolfed down thousands of calories a day. Even if it was a frozen pizzas or macaroni and cheese, he had to find a way to get bigger.
“The biggest thing I’ve done for myself is gain 15 or 20 pounds,” Uthoff said. “I tried to do that for three or four years and I couldn’t do it, until this year.”
Now, he packs 221 pounds on his 6-foot-9 frame. He’s averaging 19.0 points per game. His 608 points this season ranks No. 8 all-time at Iowa, and the total is the most in the program since Adam Haluska’s 637 in 2007.
Uthoff was concerned the added weight might slow him down on the court; and if they did, he would just lose the pounds and go back to the 200 to 205 range.
“To be honest, throughout my career, I didn’t want to gain that much weight,” he said. “I got up there, I felt even better.”
The Iowa junior scored 16 points against Temple. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com
Jok, meanwhile, played just five minutes in that 2013 loss to Villanova. He struggled with his conditioning as a freshman, but turned the page this year with improved conditioning and diet.
“No, I couldn’t (have played 39 minutes last year),” Jok said. “In the summer, I just got in the best shape of my life.”
An admittedly biased reporter
There’s a newspaper columnist proudly wearing Hawkeye gear this week at the Barclays Center. But he’s not on the job, doesn’t have a credential. His younger brother is the Iowa head coach.
Jack McCaffery writes about Temple and Villanova basketball, among other Philadelphia teams, for the Delaware County Times in Pennsylvania — two teams Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes are facing this weekend in Brooklyn.
Temple coach Fran Dunphy and Villanova’s Wright know the deal.
“I just saw Jay, and he was laughing, ‘I thought you’d have more gold on than you do.’ He understands,” Jack McCaffery said. “It is what it is.”
Jack said that neither he nor Fran get any extra satisfaction beating a Philadelphia-area team. They grew up going to games at The Palestra, where Philly “Big Five” universities — St. Joseph’s, LaSalle, Pennsylvania (where Fran played), Temple and Villanova — used to play. Only Penn plays at the “Cathedral of College Basketball” today.
“I really want the Hawks to win, period,” Jack said, laughing. “… I like 'Dunph' and Jay. I don’t like them that much.”
Who shoots Iowa’s half-courters?
Iowa center Adam Woodbury’s buzzer-beating NCAA Tournament winner was outdone later Friday night, when Northern Iowa’s Paul Jesperson drained a half-court shot as time expired to beat Texas in Oklahoma City.
Woodbury, as is his humble nature, deferred to Jesperson as having the bigger moment.
“His was half-court, and mine was from 2 feet maybe,” Woodbury said. “I’ve got to give him the nod on that one.”
So if Iowa needs a half-court heave Sunday, who shoots it? Woodbury didn’t hesitate in naming the guy who put up 21 shots, many from very deep, against Temple.
“Jarrod shot from about half-court I think about a half-dozen times,” Woodbury said to a gaggle of laughs, “so I’ll let him have that one.”